Seeds are a gamble. When you go to a nursery and pick out a plant you can check under the leaves for bugs, look for signs of chewing or wilting, even pull the plant out of the pot and check the roots. Not seeds. They show up in little packets and you plant them, give them light, water and sometimes.... nothing happens. It might mean the conditions weren't right. Perhaps you forgot to stratify or scarify them. Perhaps the seed just wasn't viable. Like my onions.
I planted Rossa di Milano onion seed several weeks ago. The pack promised beautiful, large, heavy yielding red skinned onions. It is also dated 2007. Four years ago these seeds were viable. This year, not so much. I planted the entire packet knowing they were getting old and only one seed germinated. I had hopes they might still be good but let this be a lesson. Use those seeds while they're still useful. Onion seed, now that I checked, is viable for approximately 2 years. Not 4 years. Before you go and throw out all your seed though be warned, not all seeds are the same. In fact tomato seed can last up to 10 years. The best practice is to date your seed packages when you purchase them and each year before planting check to make sure each type of seed is still viable. If you're a gambler like me and you've got some spare room then go ahead and try planting those seeds, who knows, you might just get an onion or two.
In addition to the onions I also planted Clear Pink heritage tomatoes, Bonny Best tomatoes, basil, amaranthus, mystery seed from MIL, and cosmos. The good news is that everything is growing well. VERY well. I have over 20 tomato plants, a dozen or so basil, another 20 amaranthus. Maybe I should have planted less seed? Not necessarily, check out this flat of tomatoes.
Out of the 6 seeds that were planted only 5 sprouted and only two of those (the two in the back) look to be really robust. That plant in the middle only has one leaf! The two in the foreground have some weird lines in their cotyledons and are slightly curled. These three seedlings are all compromised to a certain degree. A weak seedling makes for a weak plant and should be culled. Planting extra seed isn't wasteful, it just ensures that you're able to pick only the strongest plants for your garden. By starting off with strong plants you're likely to have less problems in your garden at a later date.
Just a reminder that if you haven't yet added a comment to my last post 'Changes are Afoot' there is still time to do so. The draw for the prize will take place this Friday, April 8, 2011.